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  2. Lyssa

    1940, 1970 and Today

    Dear AC, what an impressive Haibun. I need time to sort my thoughts...you know me. But I will come back to write a proper comment. For the moment thank you for sharing this outstanding work. Lyssa
  3. Katya Dee

    Chapter 3

    - III - They didn’t get home until very early on Saturday morning, and Raven didn’t feel a slightest pang of guilt. Ever since a month or so ago, guilt that would be gnawing at him every time after they came back from one of the ‘parties,’ started to diminish immensely. By now, it disappeared completely – Raven wouldn’t feel even a shadow of remorse. At first, it bothered him somewhat, but finally, he shrugged it off, figuring that the absence of pangs of conscience was a rather good thing, at least in his book. It seemed that Julian was aware of that as well (which didn’t surprise Raven in the slightest), and now they were back on their original schedule – the ‘parties’ would happen every Friday of the month, instead of just two. Raven drifted off to sleep two or three hours after they finally made it home, his head on Julian’s chest, blond’s heartbeat matching his own, a faint scent of blood tickling his senses with lazy comfort. He thought of the painting and about the fact that he would need to tell Julian to run a scan on it, just in case, when he fell asleep. He dreamt of the day he was almost choked by the rope around his neck – the ‘punishment’ from his Aunt. He dreamt of falling facedown into the pile of little sharp rocks, crushed glass, and broken plastic, feeling the cat’s sharp claws digging deeper into his spine. Somehow, the pain didn’t bother him anymore; neither did the blazing heat nor the black-and-purple darkness in front of his eyes. “It’ll be gone soon,” he thought hazily, sliding into thick-cotton-filled nothingness. “It’s going away now...” Then he dreamt of hearing someone’s voice, which sounded as if it was coming from very far away. The voice screamed something out, which ended with, “...you fucker...!” Then Raven felt the tightness of the rope leaving his neck and drew a quick, sharp breath, which immediately made his throat hurt. He opened his eyes when he felt someone lifting him up, but all he could see was just a dark outline of someone’s head and shoulders against the bright July sun. The same voice said something he failed to hear, and then Raven closed his eyes, once again sliding into the cotton-wrapped darkness. When he opened his eyes again, he realized that he was lying in bed, and he was quite uncomfortable. He blinked, trying to figure out why, and then realized that somebody was rolling him onto his side and rubbing something onto his back. He mumbled something incoherent when someone said: “Lady, you should’ve used a hell of a lot more of this... And you didn’t even touch the back,” the voice added darkly, and there were more unpleasant rubbing sensations on his wailing with pain back. He managed to turn his head so he could finally see the owner of that voice, and when he did, he started blinking rather rapidly. The man glanced at him and smiled tightly. “You’ll be all right, kid,” he muttered and rubbed more cream on Raven’s back. “What are you doing here?” Raven muttered, recognizing the man immediately. “It’s a dream, kid,” the man said quickly, and let go of Raven’s shoulder. “Just a dream...” Raven slowly lifted his arm and looked at his hand. Yeah, he was indeed still a kid, he thought when he saw his small fingers. Why the hell was he dreaming of this person then? He was never there when the entire unpleasant thing happened... “But why are you here?” he winced when he tried sitting up. “You were nowhere near me back then, Desmond...” Then he slightly frowned – the man’s long black hair was now quite short. “You cut your hair?” he asked dumbfoundedly. The man’s green eyes stared at him without blinking. “You recognize me?” he asked incredulously without answering the question, and then frowned. “This is new...” he muttered mostly to himself. “What...” Raven started saying when Desmond turned his head to look at something behind his back. Raven followed his gaze but he only saw the wall. Desmond quickly stood up. “I gotta go,” he said. “It’s just a dream, okay?” “Wait...” Raven reached for him, but the green-eyed man shook his head and took several steps back. “I gotta go,” he repeated. “See you later, I guess...” With that, he turned around and quickly walked towards the wall. Raven blinked several times when all of a sudden, the man simply ceased to exist. He tried sitting up once again, ignoring the throbbing, sharp pain, and then there was a monotonous, loud sound right next to his ear. He immediately recognized the sound of Julian’s alarm clock and looked around, trying to find it. Then everything around him slightly swayed, and suddenly, the world started rapidly losing focus. Raven squeezed his eyes shut when he felt dizzy all of a sudden, and when he opened them again, he stared at the sleepy blond who was blindly reaching for the ‘off’ button on the alarm clock. “Goddammit...” Julian muttered after shutting up the screeching alarm. “I completely forgot to turn it off on Thursday night...” “That’s fine...” Raven said slowly, trying to make sense of his dream. “I had a nasty dream anyway...” “What did you dream about?” Julian yawned and pulled him closer. “That one time when I almost got strangled because of the damn rope...” Raven said slowly, and Julian kissed the side of his throat. “It was weird though...” Raven continued as slowly. “I never knew what happened after I passed out, and yet, that’s what I dreamt about...” “Subconsciousness is a funny thing,” the blond said softly and nibbled on Raven’s earlobe. “Subconsciousness had nothing to do with it,” the brunet replied, half-closing his eyes at the sensation. “That particular event never happened.” “How do you know that?” Julian murmured and slid his mouth farther down Raven’s neck. “Maybe you just don’t remember it, that’s all...” “No,” Raven completely closed his eyes, letting his hands wonder all over Julian’s chest. “It never happened because it would be impossible... I dreamt of some guy rescuing me from that damn cat and pulling the rope off my neck... Mmm...” he turned his head slightly to the left, giving Julian better access to his neck – a thing the blond took advantage of with great gusto. “Then apparently, he carried me into the house...” “Makes sense...” Julian said in a muffled voice, his face glued to Raven’s neck. “Not really...” Raven breathed, digging his fingernails into blond’s shoulder. “That guy... Mmm... Yeah, right there.... Ohh... That guy... You know who he was...?” “Mmm...?” Julian asked without raising his head while slowly traveling across Raven’s neck. “It was... Oh, go left... No, your other left... Yeah, right there...! Mmmm...” “Who was it?” the blond asked after Raven stopped talking for several minutes. “Oh, right...” Raven muttered and half-opened his eyes. “It was Desmond...” Julian finally raised his head just so he could look at Raven intently. The brunet sighed. “Specter,” he said mildly. “I remember his name,” Julian nodded slowly, his expression somewhat dark and thoughtful. “What is it?” Raven frowned. “It was just a dream...!” “Did he look younger?” the blond asked, and Raven frowned deeper. “No,” he said slowly. “He looked exactly the same as he did a few months ago... Except his hair was short,” he added thoughtfully. Then he shook his head. “The weird part was that I knew who he was,” he continued. “In fact, I remembered everything, except I still looked like a kid,” he shrugged. “You recognized him?” Julian asked with unexpected relief. “Yes,” Raven said slowly. “What is it?” “Oh,” the blond muttered and leaned closer. “For a second, I thought that he got another ability, but since you recognized him, then it’s not the case...” “What ability would that be?” Raven sank his fingers in Julian’s hair and closed his eyes again. “A rare one,” the blond muttered. “Has to do with dreams... However, if that was the case, then you wouldn’t recognize him; that’s not how it works.” “Good enough...” Raven said and slightly shifted, changing the angle. “Before I forget...” he briefly opened his eyes. “Check out that painting later, will you? Make sure it’s spell-free... Just in case,” he added after Julian raised his head again. “Will do,” the blond nodded, and his fingers started doing their own sweet thing, making Raven’s back to arch off the sheets. **** According to Julian, the painting was clean, and Raven was relieved immensely. He firmly believed that the blond would definitely find something wrong with it. When that didn’t happen, Raven decided to find a better frame for his newly beloved piece of art. He was amused and frustrated when he couldn’t find anything he liked; therefore, in the middle of following week (on Wednesday, to be exact), he decided to make a design himself and simply have the damn frame custom-made. Julian seemed to be genuinely surprised when he saw Raven’s drawings. “That is pretty good,” he said when he saw the design. “Yeah,” Raven hemmed without looking away from the sheet of paper in front of him. “I am a man of many talents...” “I’d say...” the blond muttered. “So, were you always this good or did it just surface?” Here, he threw a cautious look at Raven. “I was okay at it for as long as I can remember,” the brunet answered absent-mindedly, narrowing his left eye a little, while staring at the design. “You never told me,” Julian said with a slight frown, and Raven shrugged and looked up. “I never cared much about it,” he said. “It wouldn’t make any difference.” “It would keep you occupied,” the blond said pointedly, and Raven laughed. “Hardly,” he returned his attention to the sheet of paper on the desk. “I don’t usually care about drawing... It’s just...” He sighed and straightened up. “The frame on that painting is ridiculous to say the least, and I couldn’t find anything that would sit right with me, you know...? Therefore, I decided to make the design myself and to have the damn thing custom-made.” “You really like that painting,” Julian didn’t even try to make it sound like a question. “You can tell, huh...” Raven muttered, concentrating on the design once again. “You show quite a few signs of mild obsession,” the blond nodded seriously, and Raven grinned at that. ...He finished the design the next day (Thursday) and took it to the frame shop that very evening. The frame would be ready on Saturday morning, so Raven headed back home just so he could get into the study and stare at his new obsession yet again – he has been doing that a lot lately. He would just lean on the desk, studying the painting, looking at every single small detail. He looked at all those mirrors for almost fifteen minutes when suddenly, he narrowed his eyes and leaned forward. Then he frowned and let go of the desk, walking closer to the wall. “What the...” he muttered and carefully touched the canvas. That strange bluish splatter that Julian said represented an exit was gone. Raven stared with disbelief at the mirror on the farthest right where the splatter used to be, and then he walked to the window and jerked the curtains apart, letting the sunlight to flood the study. He walked back to the painting and stared at it with painful intensity. The splatter of blue color wasn’t there. Raven muttered a scrambled, quiet obscenity and shifted his gaze towards the woman. She looked exactly the same as she did before – the same rigid posture, the same turn of the head. He carefully studied the painting for the next hour or so. Everything was the same except for that one mirror on the farthest right with the missing blue splatter of color. “Dammit,” Raven growled finally and stepped away from the wall. “I knew there was something wrong with the bloody thing! But Julian said it was fine...” he frowned. “Yeah, but where did that reflection go then...? Son of a...” He threw another glance at the painting, hoping to see that bluish splash of color, cursed when there was none, and walked out of the study, thinking that he would have to tell Julian about that later in the evening when the blond came back home. Julian returned at his usual time – 7:30 – and Raven was about to tell him about the painting and the vanished reflection when the blond exhaled with unexpected frustration and threw his keys on the coffee table rather harshly. Raven frowned at that. “What’s wrong?” he asked, and Julian kicked off his shoes and headed towards the kitchen. “This damn merger is more frustrating than I thought it would be,” he muttered while filling a short glass with amber-colored liquor. “Too many factors...” he sighed and drank some of the liquor. “Seems to me like you need to blow off some steam,” Raven said with a small smile. Julian glanced at him and set his glass on the counter. “Yes,” he agreed with a dark smile. “And you are going to help me with that.” Raven gave him another smile of his own and stepped closer. He pushed the blond against the counter, the painting and the vanished reflection completely escaping his mind. He harshly nipped at Julian’s lower lip while running his hands over blond’s hips. “Before I forget,” Julian muttered and pushed the brunet away slightly. “I have to leave tomorrow morning. I will be back on Saturday afternoon.” “Leave?” Raven frowned at that. “Where are you going?” “This goddamn merger,” Julian nodded darkly. “There is something I have to attend. You won’t be interested, believe me on that.” “I could always go with you,” Raven said pointedly, and the blond immediately shook his head. “I will be gone the entire day on Friday,” he said in a low voice. “Knowing you, you’ll be bored again... I do not want you to repeat your stunt, not at that meeting. It is rather important. I will be back on Saturday afternoon,” he nodded, and Raven let out a small, disappointed sigh. “What time are you leaving tomorrow?” he asked in defeat. “My plane leaves at nine in the morning,” Julian said, running his fingers through Raven’s hair. “You’d better wake me up before that,” Raven murmured and pushed the blond against the counter again. “Believe me,” Julian nodded without shifting his gaze. “I will.” Raven smiled without baring his teeth. “Strip,” he ordered, and Julian slowly shook his head. “No,” he said quietly. “You are the one who is going to do all the stripping tonight.” Raven immediately knew that right now, the blond was craving more dominance than usual, and he felt a jolt of dark heat shoot through him. When Julian introduced him to this particular mood of his for the first time a while ago, Raven hated it. Well, for the first twenty minutes or so, to be exact. Following Salamander’s orders and doing everything he was told, felt incredibly humiliating. Raven almost stopped that game right then and there, when to his astonishment, he realized that the entire ordeal was turning him on so much that his hands were shaking. Therefore, he decided to give it another twenty minutes, figuring that he could always stop this later. He knew that Julian would not pursue the matter any further if Raven didn’t want it. “If I still hate it, I will just call it quits,” he reasoned back then. Well, twenty minutes later, Raven wouldn’t even think of calling anything quits. This mood didn’t hit Julian too often – once a month if that – and every time it happened, Raven would get into it from the very beginning. ...“Strip,” Julian ordered in the same quiet voice. “Do not speak until I let you,” he added a second later. Raven slowly blinked once for ‘yes’ and started undoing the buttons on his shirt, knowing that he wouldn’t get much sleep tonight, and that was just fine with him. ...He was right. After several very intense hours, and after they relocated onto the couch in the living room, finally leaving the kitchen, Raven was standing on all four, biting the back of the couch, growling loudly while the blond kept delivering unexpectedly hard, abusive blows onto that spot filled with stars and sparkles, making brunet’s back arch tightly and his hips rock harder. He was thankful that Julian didn’t order him to be completely silent – Raven doubted it was even possible for him to do that. His throat could never be tamed, no matter what the circumstances would be. It has been at least an hour after Salamander’s breathless ‘On your hands and knees!’ order, and Raven ached for that tantalizing, final release. Julian, however, acted as if he was completely oblivious to brunet’s urgent, begging growls, keeping up the ruthless, maddening pace without even a hint of slowing down or softening those hard blows. Raven dug his fingers deeper into the couch, swallowing all the words that were dancing on the tip of his tongue, knowing that if he spoke without the blond’s permission, this sweet torture would last for a hell of a lot longer. He groaned desperately when Julian picked up the pace even more, and his back twisted into impossible arch, making the blond to sink deeper yet – a thing Raven didn’t think was possible. He bit onto the back of the couch once again, thinking that he would have to endure God knows how much longer of this sweet madness, when all of a sudden, Julian muttered: “Talk to me... Raven, talk to me...” The minute Salamander said his name, Raven knew that the game was over. He turned his head, staring at the blond above his shoulder, locking his gaze on those lilac eyes. “Tell me what you want,” Julian panted without shifting his gaze. “I want... You on the couch...” Raven managed to say in a stuttering growl. “I want... to face you... and I want... Your hand...!” The blond nodded, and suddenly, he pulled out, making Raven grimace at the very unpleasant stinging emptiness. Julian threw his body onto the couch, pressing his back into the cushions, and pulled Raven on top. The brunet impaled himself on Salamander’s body with an impatient groan and tightly wrapped his legs around blond’s waist, immediately latching onto the side of Julian’s throat, hungry for his taste and scent. He moaned, “Go slower...” when he felt a hand wrap around his throbbing length, and Julian obliged, knowing that right now, Raven wanted to stretch the grand finale for as long as he could possibly handle. He made his hips to slow down drastically without reducing the brutal strength of his blows, and his hand started moving in the same slow, tight tempo. Raven briefly raised his head, just so he could assault Julian’s mouth for a minute, and then he returned to blond’s throat, latching onto a different spot. He managed to keep his body moving in Julian’s tempo for a while, but finally, he couldn’t do it anymore. Julian’s hips and hand immediately followed Raven’s accelerando-ing rhythm, and when the brunet mumbled something incoherent into his throat and when his teeth sank even deeper into Julian’s skin, the blond knew that the grand finale was maybe a minute away. He was right – a minute later, Raven groaned, “Julian...!” into blond’s neck, and then that very familiar maddening dance of brunet’s convulsing body threw Salamander into overdrive. He called out Raven’s name several times in a raspy, breaking voice, feeling the smaller man spill all over his tight hand and chest, spasming in his palm, and Julian’s hips thrust forward, lifting both of them off the couch for several long, shuddering seconds, his spasms eerily identical to the ones of the brunet. After all the convulsions finally flatlined, Raven mumbled something in a very weak voice and dropped his suddenly limp body onto Julian’s still slightly shivering lean frame. Julian buried his face in Raven’s dark, disheveled, somewhat longish by now hair, and closed his eyes, inhaling the familiar scent deeper without unlocking the circle of his arms. “Let’s get to bed,” he muttered after a while. “Mmm,” Raven replied without lifting his head. “The couch is big and comfortable enough...” Julian let out low, satisfied laughter. “You can’t even move, can you?” he asked in his usual purring manner. “Mmm,” Raven said again without moving. Julian let out another low laughter, kissed brunet’s temple, and got up, never letting go of Raven’s limp body. Raven wrapped both arms around Salamander’s neck, managing to keep his legs locked around the blond’s waist, and slightly turned his head, just so he could run his tongue over Julian’s still bleeding, abused throat. The blond slowly made his way to the bedroom, and after he kicked the door closed, he lowered Raven onto the sheets, sliding next to him, and quickly setting up the alarm clock. “Do you have to go tomorrow?” Raven muttered sleepily and wrapped his arm around Julian’s waist, resting his head on the other man’s shoulder. “Uh huh,” Julian replied, entwining their fingers together. “Damn,” Raven sighed and closed his eyes. Right before he slid into sleep, there was a shimmering, crystal sound of the doorbell ringing, coming from afar. He almost said something, but then noticed that the blond didn’t even stir, so he ignored the chiming intrusion, scooted even closer to Julian, and several minutes later, he was asleep.
  4. It's never fun having to kill a character.

     

    Unless it's in a mystery or horror novel and then let the blood flow!

  5. Philippe

    Chapter 46

    Maybe an extra ration of coal, not should he deserves good boy status. 🤔🤔🤔👎 Nope just coal.
  6. Wayne Gray

    Acceptance

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jeffrey. I'm glad you liked the chapter, and the dialogue! Those scenes between Kent and Stanley... they've definitely gone just a little further than they had before. Kent exerted some control he never has. Not only did he find Stanley willing to hear him, but that Stanley NEEDED to. Stanley is happiest when he has someone who loves him steering things. That's what Kent did. In our trio, did you notice Tad? How he spoke individually to both Nate and Christopher, and how he asked them to go to him with their fears? Tad is the one going through the most terrifying thing of his life... yet, he is willing to take on all of their pain. As much as they'll give him, he'll take it. Out of all of the characters I've ever written... Thaddeus Coleman is the one I would have liked to have met the most.
  7. Today
  8. Wayne Gray

    Acceptance

    Hey, thanks for commenting, Bryan. I think you're right about Kent and Stanley. We're all formed from our pasts, and Stanley can't help but feel those echoes you spoke of. When it comes to Stanley, Kent has slowly grown protective. He can sense the need for it in his lover, and he grows into the void in Stanley's world. He's becoming the rock that Stanley needs. The graphic novel was something I loved, mainly because of the work I was doing with pictures associated with the story. Someday I'll release a version of this story that's edited, and that includes those "artified" pictures. They add a lot to the work. I tried to make them all look like art, and for the most part it worked out well. Story-wise, Tad felt the need to get his work out there. He wanted to have an impact on others in a way that wasn't preachy, or confrontational. Simple scenes of life between people who love one another. That's all he wanted to do. You're not rambling. 🙂 I'm looking forward to Sunday too!
  9. JeffreyL

    Acceptance

    You did a great job writing Stanley's and Kent's moments together! The dialogue was spot on. I enjoyed Kent being the one in charge for real not just for sex play. I am glad Stanley listened and understood. I was also happy to see the trio come to a better understanding of their relationship. All in all a great chapter! Thanks.
  10. . 1940, 1970 and Today Haibun A poem I wrote many years ago belongs here, in Pride Month and Other Haibun. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the three days of rioting before the Stonewall Inn. It was June of the following year that the first Pride March happened, cementing the notion of being out and visible. Photographs show the same boys and girls – for they were merely brave, wonderful kids in their late teens and early twenties – who fought in the streets with their bones and blood to secure our liberties in the summer of ’69 led the protest parade in 1970. Each time we take to the streets to reinforce our love, we should think of them. We should also recall the power behind the symbol of the pink triangle, for those who wore it also paid with their blood and bones. Poem: What if I were one of them, one of the ones bound in a line – on one side held by oppression, on the stronger side still, by a fact – bound because they couldn’t hide what others easily scurry into themselves. With shaven heads wrapped in soil and sweat-combed rags, the line without a sound conjoins into a row of wasted solitude, looking all calm, but beneath a bitter quake of the heart. One palm sweats where its own nails bite, longing for sweet revolt, or just a little courage to touch the mate it used to hold so often and so well. More spitefully, the living barbs cut his flesh, bringing blood to the face of constraint; sweat and purity mingle in the cupping want of his hand. Fear, alive within reach, his eyes feel sunken deeper in his brain, but focus worked by weariness brings an image to attention. That head before his groping eyes he sees as summers ago have seen – where the back of ears were once awash in sun-like hair – he would play like a child on a familiar beach, stroke a fingertip from nape around to the side of receiving lobe, then like a dalliance, retread the way to end in the sandy spot from which he began. Letting go, his eyes befell the faded stripes that downwards clothed the back before him, and beneath, the shabby remains of a body he used to feel his own. Down to himself, his own badge – the one they gave him as a shame – he sees the pink triangle gone a dirty emaciated hue of the time stolen from him. But movement from in front caught his ever-slowing glance, and a blink required a second to clear his vision, but movement he saw from the hand of he in front of him – from the one he so longed to touch. Perhaps not an invitation, perhaps merely a glint of movement hoping across a blind desert for the embrace of a loving eye. Three sides, the man mused. Half empty-hearted, one side denies; and if unfeeling can deny a life away, a second side is shame to only be alive when more than one, for a group in uncurable illness is a group in pathetic penitence strong. But the third and last is redemption, the one so few seem to find; the acquittal of nature, the strength to free her of any wrong, and that love of self is the only love to bring about blessed absolution. The man’s grip relaxed, and the nails undug their trench from his palm. With one finger slowly raising, his eyes re-found that distant glimmer, and made for it across the dead air of time robbed from them. Slowly, for the effort took much… slowly, no one must see, no one must, not for shame, not for grief, but for no other reason than a secret love ever wants its innocence. Again he woke his eyes to focus, only to feel the palm of his belovèd take the finger in affection. A moment only, but neither needed more. quickly, he drew his hand away and then saw a guard had seen their touch. To the man, the soldier boy was familiar – the same sweet look he knew so well – the look his lover used to wear so mildly and so openly in the Berlin of old. A lump hitched in his throat; not only had this boy seen, but he was one of them; one of them hidden and helpless. The man had no illusions; such types were the most deadly to his type – the caught, the unapologetic, the “uncured,” and the natural…. He feared the worst. He felt sorry it meant the same pain for his belovèd as himself, wishing he could absorb it for the man he loved. A flinch of pity appeared across the young face; the guard moved silently away. Eventually, the order came and the line of men trudged forward at a shuffling pace, their last movement, for outside the camp gates, a ditch awaited them. So the order was brought about against those – the accusèd Queers – by the un-accusèd ones in a place called Belsen. But what if I were one of them, the trickle in the streets who, by the end of morning, thousands found themselves. One of the ones who joined autonomous limbs and built an unhanded chain to sweep arbitrary subjugation aside. One who reveled in the sheer weight of all my companions, we being one, we taking power so long denied. Alive in the joy of freedom, itching for the chance to fight – whole, happy, strong – with the strength of newborns. What if I were one of them, the ones who matched on a bright summer day – one year to the day – after Stonewall. What if I were amongst the first takers of the Rights of Queers! Postlude: Sonnet But those generations are gone for me, Though less than one divides the former from The one that got all of our liberty; Thirty-year rebellion from martyrdom. And yet today among the crowd I saw Beauty has eyes and hands, and kept below Levi’s brand, are treasures near the draw, Handy enough to keep me in sorrow. Moving like one beyond their noticing, One boy saw and shyly knew the compliment – As shadows blew me his glance returning, Our commonest love with the crowd’s was blent. Though such days are past, those they loved I see; I’ll fight that these years belong to him and me! ◇ ◇ ◇ _
  11. BryanC

    Acceptance

    Great read! I can't say it's nice to read about someone' insecurities, but that's the balance, right? You can't accept something unless you're uncertain of it first. Kent and Stanley are probably how the majority of LGBT couples approach relationships. You look over your shoulder at first, you hear the echoes of past voices -- good and bad, and you ultimately rely on each other to turn your attention back to one another. Creating the Graphic Novel has turned out to be a great plot device. Its also a great way of communicating to a large demographic of people. That has a special place in my heart, whenever we arrive at those moments. Kind of rambling, but this a great chapter. Looking forward to Sunday.
  12. Wayne Gray

    Next Steps

    Thanks, Parker. The newly minted triad is sort of feeling its way along. Though Tad is the center, both Christopher and Nate bring something they all need. Kent and Stanley are slowly learning that trust it takes to express feeling and emotion to one another. I love telling their part of the story. 🙂 Markus... god. Yeah. I know how he feels too. I really know how he feels. He's a man in desperate need of some help.
  13. Wayne Gray

    Next Steps

    It is on the small side. A little one bedroom house. It was what he could afford. Does it meet the criteria of a "tiny house"? No. Though, it's small by US standards. A cottage, really. But it's what suits our Stanley. Thanks for reading and commenting, Bryan. 🙂
  14. centexhairysub

    Chapter 46

    I have decreed that this story shall never end. It must keep going with a posting ever week for all eternity. So saithe the Goddess... Really enjoyed the chapter and can't wait to see what happens next and where they are going, somewhere fabulous, I just know it.
  15. Parker Owens

    Next Steps

    This is a great chapter; Kent and Stanley learning tenderness; Tad, Nate and Chris learning to be three and one; and then poor Markus. I know how he feels. You bring us into each of these orbits, and show us their developing lives. Excellent.
  16. A wonderful story filled with so many emotions! I look forward to future installments!!!
  17. travlbug

    Chapter 16

    "Congrats on taking over the camp.” “Thanks, I still can’t believe it's mine.” “So why you?” [Spencer] asked. I thought about it for a bit, “I’m not really sure to be honest." Kessler then proceeds to rationalize why Bowden may have given him the keys to the kingdom, but could Bowden have a hidden agenda? The "amazing," "mysterious," "perfect," "unattainable," bisexual Spencer, who seems to attract even "straight" boys like Kes: When Kes asks Spencer--hypothetically, of course--if he would have a chance if he made a pass at him, Spencer pats his knee, squeezes it, and says, “Yeah, I think you would.” Is he giving Kess permission to make a pass or just messing with him? Once again, is Spencer just toying with people or being sincere? (His monotone would also make it more difficult to tell the difference.) Ah, so "Spencer" led Powers into the woods and abandoned him there. Was Spencer playing a practical joke? Was Spencer possessed (possibly by Claton's ghost?), such that he doesn't remember his actions? Was it the ghost, or doppelganger, itself which led Powers away? And why was Powers targeted? I think we just swerved into the Twilight Zone!
  18. Kitt

    Chapter 16

    👍
  19. nothric

    Chapter 16

    Thanks, I'm glad that you're enjoying it! 😁
  20. MJC

    Chapter 16

    Now, it really does start to get interesting... from a couple of perspectives lol. Ghosts from the past? Plus of course, the more than passing interest of Kes and Spencer for each other . Enjoying your good work, please keep it up .
  21. “He was definitely flirting with you.” Blake and Jasper both head into Jasper’s room, they’d been out for hours at the party but Jasper had overdone it quickly with shots, having snuck away from Blake to have a few more after he’d been told to slow down. The night had been kinda hazy but just before they left he’d been chatting with an openly gay singer that had brought him some water and was trying to comfort him on his relationship troubles. According to Blake he’d not said who he was dating, just that the person he was into was having drinks with their ex, something along the lines of ‘if I were them, I’d not have let you out of my sight.’ had been when Blake interfered, telling Jasper it was time to go home. Rather than the party he had been hoping for, he’d ended up spending 40 minute in a bathroom throwing up until he’d pretty much reached sober again and by that point, everyone was able to tell he was upset about something. He had been talking to plenty of people throughout the night and almost all of them wanted to talk about Ryan and the rumors early on that they didn’t get along, as soon as he explained that it was their manager he hated and not Ryan, the topic would turn to how amazing Ryan’s dancing had been at the show tonight. Having to continually talk about Ryan, while trying to forget he was out with another guy, wasn’t working very well for Jasper, which is why he kept smashing down drinks every chance he got. “He’s not here, he didn’t come to the after party. Has he texted or called?” Jasper sighs flopping down on his bed and looking over towards Blake who sits beside him trying to be supportive, he’d never actually helped Jasper deal with relationship issues that he genuinely cared about so he was both surprised and unsure about how to handle the feelings Jasper was expressing for Ryan. “Parties aren’t really his thing are they? Does he even have his own key yet? Maybe he couldn’t come home before us because he doesn’t have a key to get in.” Blake tries to reassure him but Jasper props himself up on his elbows and gives Blake a skeptical look. “Or maybe he’s gone back to Damien’s house.” He states before a knock on the door steals their attention. “Jasper.” The nerves in Ryan’s voice was unsettling to Jasper who was already a little highly stung about the whole situation. “Want me to go?” Blake asks. “Not yet. Come in.” Jasper calls out, neatening his hair and sitting up, he wanted to look like he had been fine, not like he’d been slowly becoming more and more paranoid as the 4 whole hours had passed of Ryan being out with Damien. Ryan opens the door and by the look on his face Jasper felt a lump building in his throat. “How was your catch up?” He asks with faked calmness. “I kissed him.” Ryan admits instantly, he had guilt written all over his face and looked as though he was about to cry too. “I feel like you guys should talk alone?” Blake asks Jasper gently, Jasper shakes his head and looks at Ryan. “So I did accidentally send you on a date.” He sighs, looking up at the roof to stop himself from crying. “Do you still have feelings for him?” He asks, blinking as he tries to hold back the tears threatening to streak his face. Blake places a hand on Jasper’s shoulder to try and comfort him but he felt truly out of place being in the middle of this couple’s emotional conversation. The tearful exhale from Jasper as he looks back at his silent boyfriend only made the discomfort more difficult to bare. “I shouldn’t have gone with him.” Ryan sighs, looking down at his feet ashamed for a moment before leaning back against the wall and sliding down to sit on the floor, his elbows on his knees and his hands over his face. “I was trying to be cool with you getting a drink with someone. I had myself almost totally convinced that I could trust you to do that, without me having anything to worry about. 4 hours I’ve been telling myself that someone who’s so insecure about his relationship wouldn’t be the one to fuck it up. You really did catch me off guard. You do understand that it wasn’t a hall pass, right? Do you want to get back with him?” Jasper’s emotions turn to frustration and annoyance, the way he always covered for feeling sad. “You have every right to be mad at me.” Ryan starts but is cut off with Jasper’s snarky reply. “Well thanks for your permission.” “I don’t want to get back with him, the feelings I have aren’t healthy. He did it on purpose because he knew I was with you and knew...” “How is it his fault if you kissed him.” Jasper snaps. Ryan looks up at Jasper, realizing how pissed off he was. “You’re right, I fucked up.” He stands up and turns to leave the room, deciding it wasn’t worth trying to explain himself to Jasper while he was so angry. “I’m really sorry.” He sighs. “No, hold on, don’t you dare walk out on me. I may have been wrong about letting you go ‘for a drink’ with an ex but don’t tell me I’m wrong about the kind of person you are. There’s some story behind this ex, you said he did this on purpose and that your feelings aren’t healthy. You owe me the story.” Jasper orders, nudging Blake. “I’ll talk to you later.” Jasper tells him quietly. “Good luck.” Blake gives a reassuring smile then gets off the bed and doesn’t even look at Ryan as he passes him, leaving the two to talk alone. “He was toxic. We dated on and off for a year, he cheated on me multiple times and would tell me it was my fault for not calling him back, not replying straight away, if I didn’t organize plans with him on the weekend or whatever he would wind up cheating on me and telling me it was only because I wasn’t there. We didn’t really break up when he cheated, he would just not talk to me for days and I’d end up sending him a message asking if he was still mad at me for whatever it was I didn’t do. He wouldn’t want me spending time with friends and I would have to justify everything I did to him. Eventually he had me so closed off that I wouldn’t talk to anyone else, spend time with anyone else, all my time not working was spent either with him or alone reading about him being at a party on Facebook when he had told me he wasn’t able to hang out. He started hanging out with this guy he worked with a lot and posting about it, liking all his photos and status’, I became paranoid about it and he loved rubbing it in my face that he was hanging out with the other guy. But anyone I mentioned to him, he would get jealous of and get mad at me for talking about.” Ryan walks over to Jasper’s bed, sitting on the very end and taking a moment to breath. Jasper was calming down, his annoyance now on hearing how Ryan was treated. “No wonder you have anxiety, you’re insecure and have trouble feeling good enough. You do know that ticks almost every box for emotional abuse right? What a piece of shit.” Jasper scoffs, shaking his head in disbelief. “If I knew any of that, I would have never sent you off with him alone. Now I get why you blame the kiss on him tonight. I treat you better than that, so it still hurts that you even wanted to kiss him.” “I can’t explain it, I am an idiot I guess, I let it go on for a year. Then he started pressuring me for sex, saying that he hadn’t cheated in a few months and that if I was going to make him wait much longer he would break up with me for good and be with someone who would in his words ‘treat him like a real boyfriend’. So of course I felt like I was letting him down by not taking that step with him, but I wanted him to tell me he loved me before we went that far and he hadn’t said it. One night he came over and my Mum was out so we had dinner, I wanted to watch a movie but before the movie even started it was obvious what he wanted to do. Then he finally asked what I was waiting for and I told him, he smiled at me and said ‘seriously? Of course I love you, that’s why it annoys me so much that you are holding back’.” “Tell me you didn’t.” Jasper leans forward, completely entranced by the story, he’d heard of this kind of thing happening to women, but never thought of it as something men would go through too, especially a guy like Ryan who didn’t look like the kind of person who’d be targeted for that kind of crap. “Like I said, I was an idiot. I wanted so badly to believe I hadn’t wasted a year of my life dating someone who didn’t care and I’d been feeling shit about everything else in my life so I just wanted to believe in something being good. Anyway afterwards he went for a shower and I heard his phone go off, I looked at it and it was a message from the guy literally saying ‘Can’t wait to see you’.” Ryan looks down at his hands. “It was my first time, and I wanted it to mean everything, and instead it was with someone I should have known better than to trust and who didn’t care about me., and had a back-up plan for the night anyway.” He sighs. “Did you punch him in the face?” Jasper asks, barely remembering why he had been annoyed in the first place. “No, but I did confront him. I asked him if he meant what he said when he told me he loved me and he said ’of course, that’s why I waited this long for you’.” “What a DICK! Waited? He was sleeping with other guys the whole damn time!” “Yeah. Then he thanked me and made some comment about how it wasn’t a big deal and now I knew he wouldn’t cheat because I would be able to fulfill his needs, then he left, presumably to go to the other guy’s house and cheat on me. I’m not really sure because I never heard from him again after that night. I always thought he just didn’t care of felt guilty because that was the night of my attempt. I found out tonight that he called the next day and my Mum had told him to stay away from me and to never speak to me again. He didn’t even get told about my attempt.” Ryan looks over at Jasper who was completely softened by the topic of Ryan’s suicide, the anger had no place in this conversation anymore. “That was that night? Because of him?” Jasper asks gently. “He was just the last straw, I had invited him over hoping to forget how empty I felt about everything else, and I ended up feeling robbed of love, self respect, and the hope I had for finding true love and sharing everything with them. I felt like I officially had nothing to live for. He ruined me, and tonight when he showed up, when he told me about my Mum and when he mentioned nothing about my suicide, didn’t even ask about my depression, but apologized for the way he had treated me, I felt lost. He asked why I hadn’t called. He accused me of breaking up with him to be in the band and he had me apologizing to him for not letting him know what I had gone through. He manipulated me and belittled me and made me feel guilty so much during our relationship that even though I’m now in a relationship I am genuinely happy in and I have tried not to think about him or compare him to you from the start, I felt so powerless that when he told me he missed me I felt like nothing had changed, like I was still begging for him to want me, to actually want me and he had come all this way and paid all that money to see me again, I felt like that was him finally showing me he cared and I kissed him. I never wanted to see him again, and then he turns up and I felt like I finally won, he finally actually wanted to be with me. But as soon as I had kissed him he laughed at me, said ’I knew you’d never get over me’ and I was back to feeling like nothing but a game to him.” Ryan starts breaking down, crying into his hands. Jasper moves quickly to behind him, he hugs him and kisses his shoulder. “It’s no excuse and I shouldn’t have done it, I’m so sorry I hurt you.” Ryan sobs. “I will forgive you right here, right now, no more guilt or need for apologies if you promise me something.” Jasper replies, moving to kneel in front of Ryan on the floor, he takes both of Ryan’s hands and waits for Ryan to look at him. “Anything to fix this. I don’t want to lose you. You are so good to me and you deserve to be treated so much better than I have but I can see everything I hoped for, in you.” Ryan takes a deep breath, sorrow on his face as he patiently waits for Jasper’s demands, for a moment Jasper considers how this would have played out if he were Damien, how the guilt and punishment would go for Ryan upsetting him somehow, he sighs, wishing he didn’t even have a reason to compare them. Here he was kneeling before Ryan, hoping he was showing compassion and empathy for what Ryan had suffered, and wanting to find a way to help him move past this, not to torment him with it, but somehow he could tell that the way Ryan was looking at him right now, was the same way he would have looked at and begged for another chance every time Damien had made a threat to him about breaking up. Even his choice of wording made him feel guilty now, he hated that there was anything in common with Damien, but at least he could say for sure, that his intentions were good. “I am saying this from a place of love and care, not from a want to control you. I think it would be best if you have no communication with your ex. He clearly upsets you and makes you feel weak and I never want that for you. So please promise me you will come to me straight away if he tries in any form, to get back in contact with you, and we can work it out together.” He pleads, Ryan starts nodding in agreeance. “And I promise you, that when I tell you I love you, those words are a promise that I will spend my life wanting what is best for you, and us as a couple. I will be selfish at times, and I will be a jerk and I will definitely have my fair share of bad moments, but I will never put you through anything even remotely close to what you’ve been through before. I use to say those words to Beth, so believe me when I tell you it will mean everything when I say them to you. I want them to mean everything this time. I won’t say it to you for anything less than honest, genuine love.” Jasper assures him. Ryan smiles at him and just mouths the words thank you. Jasper smiles back and stands up, leaning in close to Ryan’s lips, looking at them but hesitating on pressing his lips against him. “And these lips deserve better than to be wasted on him.” Jasper whispers before kissing Ryan softly. “I am so sorry.” Ryan whisper again. “No more apologies. I don’t want to hear it again. I forgive you as long as you keep your promise to me. Now it’s late, I’ve fucked up my liver for one night and feel drained in almost every sense of the word so I’m going to bed.” Jasper tells Ryan then smiles at him. “After the night you’ve had, I will let you decide, do you want to go to your bed, or do you want to stay in here with me? Either way, I need to sleep, but if you need reassurance that I am still yours and I still believe in us, you’re welcome to spoon me.” Jasper lets go of Ryan’s hands and walks over to the top of his bed, he pulls back the blankets and takes off his shirt then climbs in. “Can I stay just for a while?” Ryan asks. Jasper doesn’t answer, just rolls onto his side and flicks the blanket off his back. Ryan kicks his shoes off and undresses to his underwear before climbing in behind Jasper and snuggling in tightly against his body and presses a gentle kiss on the back of his neck. “I don’t deserve you.” Ryan whispers. “Well, luckily for me, it’s not up to you to decide what you’re worth is in my eyes.”
  22. nothric

    Chapter 16

    You said to jump to it so I did haha. I'll post the next chapter tomorrow morning.
  23. jaya1968

    Chapter 16

    One word -- interesting....thanks for posting so fast -- ready for the next when you have it ready.........
  24. nothric

    Chapter 15

    Smit's brain to mouth relationship, or lack thereof, is always good for a little humor here and there. Glad you're enjoying the story! ❤️
  25. It was Monday, and Kent stood with Nate behind the counter of the bookstore. At his earliest opportunity, Kent began his curious inquiry. "So, how's your friend, Nate?" Nate smiled. "He's good. He scared us, but he's good." That was now the second time Nate had said "us" associated with his new friend. Kent noticed. "Yeah?" He smiled. "I get the impression that this is a special friend." Nate nodded and looked a little uncomfortable. "Uh, yeah. He's really special." Nate glanced at Kent then chuckled. "Ah, they both are." "Both?" Kent grinned. "Are you dating a couple? Two guys?" Nate exhaled as if he couldn't quite believe it himself. "Yeah, I guess I am." He shook his head. "It's complicated, and I didn't set out to do it," he shrugged, "but here I am." Kent wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but he came back to a simple truth. "Well, are you all happy?" "Yes," Nate answered immediately, "we are." His eyes went dreamy. "It's hard. Parts of it." Nate refocused, and he looked determined to Kent. "But, I wouldn't change it." Kent could easily see the emotion on Nate's face. 'He loves them.' He smiled at Nate. "That's cool. I'm happy for you." "Thanks, Kent." Nate's head moved as the store owner, Mrs. Stewart came in. She smiled and waved at the men, before heading toward the office in the back. "Ah, I need to talk to Mrs. Stewart about something." Nate stepped around the counter and started after her. "I'll be right back, Kent." "Okay." Kent handled the desk solo for a few minutes. Nate reappeared with a smile on his face, and his phone in his hand. "That went well." Kent finished checking a couple of purchases for a pair of college students. "Yeah? What's up?" "Tad, one of the guys I'm seeing, is trying to get his comic published. And he wants to sell it out of here." Nate helped bag the items as Kent rang them up. "Mrs. Stewart was totally onboard. Once he gets it published, he can sell out of here and do a signing too." "Comic? What kind of comic? He draws them?" Kent asked, and he waved at the two students. "Thanks! Have a good day!" Nate smiled and waved at the departing customers, then he turned back to Kent. "Yeah, he draws really well. He's super talented." Nate's voice held such pride, and Kent couldn't help a smile as he listened to him talk about Tad. "And it's a comic about his life, with him and Christopher, our boyfriend." Nate made a face, and then he laughed. "Weird. 'Our' boyfriend." He and Kent grinned at one another and Nate continued, "Anyway, yeah, he just draws life. You know? I'm even in some of it now." "Oh." Kent frowned, unsure how to say what came to mind. He finally just went for it. "Well, it's not like, superhero stuff? It's just, uh, cooking, and drinking coffee, and driving to the bank and stuff?" Nate leaned over. "That, plus there are some sexy scenes too. Tasteful, always, but still, pretty hot." Kent grinned. "Ahhh." "I know, it sounds a little weird. But, Tad wants to put it out there so others can see and read about gay people. So they know that we're just, well, we're normal." Nate's expression changed as he looked at Kent. "And, it might make a big difference - for someone coming out. Someone who might not be sure how they feel about being gay." Kent swallowed. "Yeah?" He bit his lip, and he looked down at the counter. Nate watched him, then Kent felt a warm, gentle hand on his shoulder. "Would you want to take a look at it? I can probably get him to send it to you, broken into a bunch of PDFs." Nate patted his shoulder. "I think you'd like it, Kent. It's well done." Kent glanced at Nate, and he considered. "Well," he shrugged and tried to act nonchalant, "I'd be happy to take a look. Maybe I can help proofread for him." In truth, Kent was curious. Nate grinned. "Cool, thanks. I'll ask him to send it to you. Can you give me your email?" Kent gave him his email, and Nate happily typed out a text. "Okay. I sent it to Tad." He looked up at Kent and smiled. "Let him know what you think of it, okay?" Kent nodded. "Yeah, of course." Nate grabbed a stack of re-shelves, and he whistled as he walked away. Kent watched him until he disappeared around a shelf. 'Nate's trying to help me?' Kent smiled as he thought. 'That's really cool of him.' Kent was soon busy helping additional customers, but throughout the entire morning, his smile remained. ∞ Tad was alone at home. He didn't have any current projects for work, so he allowed a little time to putter around with his coffee in hand. Last week he’d had a scary bout with the flu. It had been nerve-wracking and frightening for Nate, Christopher, and Miranda, because it mirrored many of the symptoms they would likely see when his tumor began spreading aggressively through the tissues of his brain. But Tad was now completely recovered from that illness and he was ready to get on with his project. His pair of men had already gone to their respective workplaces, though they had spent all weekend together. They also had plans to meet up again once they got off of work. The three of them were going to meet at the apartment in Nate's building, and they'd get a look at the place they had discussed for their new living situation. He received good news from Nate shortly after the redhead got to work. The bookstore owner was more than happy to carry Tad's comic book. Nate had been sure to tell her the subject matter, and she was also on board with his book signing plans. Additionally, Nate asked if his coworker could see the comics. It was precisely the kind of guy Tad was trying to reach - a young, inexperienced person who might have issues coming out, or coming to terms with his sexuality. Tad happily emailed his base PDFs to the address provided by Nate. He had a definite curiosity concerning the feedback on them, and he requested as much when he sent the files. Tad finished his coffee, washed his mug, and then settled in his chair at his desk. Kali used the opportunity to jump on his lap, and Tad turned on the tablet while he absently petted her. Even though he wasn't working for money today, he was still working to a plan. He knew the requirements for Lulu, which was the self-publishing site he planned to use. Every page of his comic needed modification, tweaking, and rework to make them all fit and display correctly on printed pages. So Tad slowly plodded through his archive of art. He didn't even realize it, but two hours passed as he worked, and he had just completed page eight. Tad had already decided that he'd work and prepare at least ten pages of art every single day. The goal was to maintain that pace all the way through until he finished with it. He checked the time. "Whoa, monster." He put down the stylus and stroked the sleepy cat. "This is going to take a while!" He did the math quickly in his head. "Okay, so fifteen minutes per page, on average." He blew out a breath. "Alright. At least we know what we're in for, Kali." Tad smiled down at Kali, and he picked her up. She cried in annoyance at the awakening, but she soon enjoyed his hand scratching her ears and head. He stood up and stretched his back while he held the little black feline. "Ahhh. I should try to do fifteen today. Just to build up a buffer." On days he didn't have paying work, he'd do more and get ahead whenever he could. Tad liked the plan. Invariably, it wasn't long before his little furry charge wanted to run free. Tad released her and she scampered off into the kitchen. He sat back down at his desk, and he cracked his knuckles. "Seven more pages. Let's get it done." The hourglass continued to run, and Tad was determined to beat it. He set his jaw, and the dark-haired man got back to work. ∞ Stanley sat on his little porch in an old wooden chair that he had sanded but had yet to refinish, and he gazed thoughtfully out over his yard as it slowly darkened in the approaching evening. He felt a little bad about Kent always driving to Arcata to see him. Yet, the stocky fellow had no problems with that. "No, it's fine." Kent had waved off his concern. "You have a house, and I've got a tiny little apartment. It's better to hang out at your place." As time went on, Stanley felt the connection between them strengthen. He didn't know how much stronger it would become, but it was already more than he had ever felt for anyone else. He had never said that terrifying, four-letter word either. Stanley wanted to be sure - absolutely confident - before he ever said that he loved someone. When Kent told him how he felt, Stanley had been both thrilled and concerned. He just didn't know what to call what he felt for Kent. It was intense and steadily growing. But love? Stanley just didn't know. Thankfully, Kent didn't seem interested in pressuring him into saying it. He knew that Kent had his own problems with his sexuality and that he needed time to process all of the swirling emotions and thoughts around that. Mainly, Kent stressed over his father's reaction to the news. Stanley understood that. His own dad lived in Fortuna, about twenty-five miles south and the place where Stanley grew up. But it might as well be in a different state. Fortuna was conservative, very different from the liberal university town of Arcata that Stanley enjoyed. Yet, his own dad didn't have an issue. Stanley had agonized over telling him for a couple of years, and when he was seventeen, he finally got up the courage to do it. His father had looked over at him from his easy-chair after a long day of work and shrugged. "Stanley, you never dated, or even talked about girls. Ever." He went back to watching TV. "And I've caught you checking out the guys on the construction crew more than once." Just like that, it was done. But until then, Stanley had been terrified of his reaction. So he empathized with Kent's worry. A hand reached and unlatched Stanley's gate, which led into the yard. Kent entered and shut the gate behind him. He smiled, his bag over his shoulder. "Hey, Stanley." Stanley stood. "Hi, Kent." Stanley watched as Kent approached. 'What does he see in me? I don't get it.' Stanley's doubts ran through his mind as Kent stepped up onto the porch. "Hey, I've got to show you something." Kent grinned, and he patted the bag he carried. "I'll need to show you on my laptop." Stanley nodded. "Oh, okay." He turned to let them into the house, still ruminating over his own questions and worries. 'I'm a nobody. A nothing. There's no way I can keep him happy.' They went inside and Kent excitedly set up his computer. Within a few minutes, Stanley had him logged onto the WiFi, and Kent opened his email. "Man, you're gonna love this." Kent continued to smile and glanced at Stanley. There must have been something of how he felt on Stanley's face. Kent froze. "Are you okay?" Kent turned toward him. "What's wrong?" Stanley felt almost as if he had been caught doing something bad. A weird panic bloomed in his mind. "I, I just ..." He frowned as he tried to figure out how to express what he wanted to say. He looked worriedly at Kent. Kent put his hands on Stanley's shoulders. "Okay, tell me what's wrong." His eyes moved over Stanley's features. "Stanley, what's going on?" 'You need to make him see.' Stanley swallowed nervously. "I, I just think that you shouldn't say that you love me." He nodded to himself. "I think you need to be sure." Kent stared at him. "I, but, I am sure." Kent wet his lips. Stanley looked down, away from Kent's eyes. "Maybe you are right now. But I don't think it'll be the same later when you really get to know me, and when you realize how," he struggled for the next words, "how small, and average, and boring I am." Stanley clenched his jaw, and he plowed on. "I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to take it back." Kent was quiet for a long while. Stanley finally looked up at him, and silent tears rolled down Kent's face. Then Kent uttered the barest whisper into the space between them. "Mercy." It was their safeword. The young man shook his head. "I can't handle it if this is some game. I can't play this one." "It's not a game, Kent." Stanley was going to try and make him understand. "I don't deserve," Stanley began, then he stopped, a surprised expression on his face. He frowned as he realized what he was about to say, as Stanley realized how he really felt. He began to well up, and he hung his head. "It's selfish. I can't expect you to be happy with me. I don't have a degree and I never will. I'm not a handsome guy. There's nothing special about me. I'm just a mechanic in training, Kent." He wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "You should expect more out of life than Stanley Morris." He blinked to clear his vision, and he looked up into Kent's green eyes. "I can't let myself love you. I can't do that to you." Kent simply stared. He blinked when Stanley reached to wipe his face, then Kent did the same thing to Stanley, gently clearing the wetness off of his lover's cheeks and chin. It confused Stanley at first, but as his hand rested on Kent's face, Kent began to smile. "You are everything I want, Stanley." He shook his head, and his eyes narrowed. "And if you ever feel bad about yourself, or like you don't deserve to be happy," Kent's expression turned aggressive, "then you'll have to deal with me. Nobody is allowed to make you feel crappy - not even you." 'He'll never see. He's blind to the weak. The ugly.' Stanley looked in naked wonder at Kent. 'He only sees good.' Stanley clamped a hand over his own mouth and closed his eyes. That didn't stop the tears. Kent pulled him into an embrace. For a few minutes, Kent stood patiently and lovingly with Stanley in his arms. Stanley worked hard and got himself under control. At last able to speak again, Stanley lifted his lips to Kent's ear. Though his voice wavered, the words were clear enough. "Okay, Kent." Kent grinned, and he pushed back to look at Stanley. "Yeah? We're okay?" Stanley took a deep breath. "Well, there's no accounting for your taste, but we're okay." "Good." Kent pulled him back in, and he squeezed him once again. "If you need to talk more about this, we can." Stanley shook his head and enjoyed the feel of Kent's body against his own. "I'm alright. Sorry, I guess I'm being needy." "That's why I'm here, Stanley. You're allowed to need stuff from me." Kent's voice slowed during his delivery, and it became a sultry growl at the end. ∞ Despite what Stanley had said, Kent could feel the lack of certainty in him - his doubt and struggle to accept his own worth. The urge to prove what Stanley was to him burned in Kent's mind, and he let his hands stroke down Stanley's back to his small, yet perfect ass. Once there, Kent squeezed Stanley's butt, and he rubbed his face against the patchy beard on Stanley's chin. "The computer can wait. But I can't." All Stanley could do was to snuggle closer to his broad lover and mumble, “I'm yours, Sir." That was all the permission he required, and Kent quickly started unbuttoning and unzipping until he had both of them naked, piles of clothes lying around them. He pulled on Stanley's hand and led him to the bedroom. Their kisses were full of the angst and passion that they had just poured out to each other. They were needy. Kent needed to show Stanley how much he meant, how worthy he was, and how much meaning Kent found in their connection. Kent was in control, and he soon had his smaller lover flipped over on his belly. He pulled on Stanley's hips, and he forced the little man's ass into the air. “You're beautiful to me, Stanley.” Kent had never done anything like what he felt the urge to do, but it felt like such a small leap for him. He wasn't afraid, and he didn't have any sort of trepidation. "And I'm going to prove it to you." Kent's own feelings of denial and shame at his sexuality faded into the background. He had to help Stanley. He had to make him see. Kent licked the exposed, vulnerable ring of muscle in Stanley's butt. That elicited a moan and a shiver from Stanley. The sounds from his skinny partner made Kent want to continue, and he strove to shove his tongue inside him. "Ahhhh! Ah god." Stanley rolled his head from side to side. "Nobody's ever …" His speech cut off as Kent's tongue entered him, and he groaned. Kent grinned against Stanley's ass, and he continued to pleasure the writhing man. Kent reached under him and took hold of Stanley's drooling, hard cock. He began to stroke Stanley, determined to make this all about the man he had chosen for his lover. Kent pulled away a moment. "Do you doubt what I feel? Are you worth what I'm doing to you, right now?" Kent went back to Stanley, and he continued the intense play with his tongue, and his hand never stopped the slow, firm strokes around Stanley's dick. "Ahh. Fuck. Sir, I…" Kent interrupted him, and he turned Stanley onto his back. He quickly lubed his cock, and he pushed his slick fingers inside his squirming lover. While he worked Stanley's hole, he bent for a kiss. Stanley's eyes rolled in his skull as he made out with Kent, but the younger man's gaze was open, alert, and focused on Stanley. Kent pulled back, positioned his erection against him, and then he brought his hands up, one on either side of the small man's head. Kent held him still, and he stared into Stanley's blue eyes. "I won't give you anything you're not worth." Kent shook Stanley's head once, as if trying to wake him, showing for a moment the strength and power locked up in his broad frame. "Do you believe that?" Stanley stared back into his eyes. "Yes, yes, Sir." "Good." Kent shoved forward, and his cock entered the smaller man in one swift motion. Stanley yelped, and then he groaned. Kent knew that he actually liked a little pain, and Stanley's jaw dropped as he enjoyed the sensation of the sudden entry. "I wouldn't give this to you if you didn't deserve it." Kent started to move, and Stanley whimpered under him. "You hear me?" "Yes, Sir." Kent started how he knew Stanley liked it - rough and hard. He allowed the smaller man to stroke himself while he hammered away. "Come for me," Kent whispered, as he slammed into Stanley. "I want to make you come, Stanley. Show me you deserve this." Stanley gasped, and his neck relaxed while his back arched. "Oh, God." His free hand gripped the back of Kent's neck. Kent was determined, and he postponed his orgasm as long as he could. He neared his limit, and he felt his body prime itself for the moment. "Come for me, damn it," he growled. He was rewarded with a gasp, and then Stanley shot up the front of his stomach and chest. "There you go. Good boy." When Kent said "boy," a huge grin appeared on Stanley's face, all while his orgasm burned its way through his body and mind. The last straw for Kent was the way Stanley's muscles clamped on him, and the knowledge that he had helped his lover get to the goal. He grunted and shoved himself as far as he could into Stanley. Kent let Stanley pull him down for a kiss while he continued to thrust into the man under him. Both finished while they kissed and Kent's pelvis was now still. Then he drew back, propped himself up on his arms, and looked down at Stanley. His eyes roamed over Stanley's delicate features. Stanley's blue eyes looked up at Kent, and his prominent Adam's Apple moved as he swallowed. A light dusting of stubble was on his face, but only in parts - facial hair was something Stanley struggled to grow evenly. Yet his lashes were dark and full, framing his marvelous eyes as if they were exquisite works of art. Everything about him, everything, Kent loved. "Do you understand me, now? Do you get it?" Kent stared intently at him, willing Stanley to see. "You're mine. I'm yours. That's what I want." Stanley bit his lip, and he nodded. "I get it." He breathed, and he wet his lips. "I think I might love you, Kent." Kent blinked, then he smiled. "Say it without 'think.'" "I might love you, Kent." They stayed in eye contact as Stanley spoke. "One more time," Kent whispered. "Without the 'might.' Just try it on for size." Stanley worked his mouth. "I, I love you, Kent." He blinked up at Kent's green eyes. "Oh, uh." Stanley nodded. "Yeah. I love you." Kent grinned. "You'd better." Then he laughed, and he wiggled his hips, which made his cock slide back and forth, still inside Stanley. "You just love my pecker." Stanley laughed. "Oh, I love that too!" He grinned at Kent, then he made a noise of realization. "Wait, before I forget, what did you want to show me?" "Oh!" Kent released him, and he stood up. He reached a hand down to help Stanley up. "Come on." They walked back into the living room and Kent turned to his laptop. Stanley watched as he selected an email - one in a long list of them with attachments. "You've gotta see this. It's a comic, but not like superheroes. They're done by Nate's boyfriend." "Uh, okay?" Stanley smiled fondly, but a little confused at Kent's excitement. Kent double-clicked, and soon a beautifully colored PDF opened. Kent scrolled quickly through a few scenes, then he stood back. "Here, look. I opened it to the panel with Tad and his boyfriend together, before they met Nate." Stanley looked. "Whoa. Sexy drawing!" Then he cocked his head, and his mouth dropped. "Uhhh… I know that guy." He pointed at the taller of the pair depicted. "That's Christopher." He tapped the screen. "I work with him!" Then he frowned and shook his head. "Wait. Who is a boyfriend with who again?" In response, Kent only smirked. ∞ Christopher and Tad were on their way to Nate's apartment building in Chris's old GMC truck. Chris looked over at him as they stopped at a light. In the fading light of the sun as it kissed the horizon, a golden glow framed his lover, and Chris lost himself for a moment as he stared. Tad blinked, then he turned his head. "It's green." "Ah, yeah. Thanks." Chris refocused on the road and continued on. Tad reached over, and his warm hand rested on Christopher's leg. Chris put his right hand over Tad's and squeezed lightly. There was so much that ran through Christopher's mind. His thoughts were not exactly coherent, and many were nothing he could vocalize. Instead, he felt raw emotions, and flashes of memory played behind his eyes. Chris knew Tad watched him as he drove. Yet there was nothing Christopher could say. There was so much he wanted to get out that he didn't know where to start. They pulled up to the curb of the apartment building. It was beautiful. Thanks to a strong earthquake that had happened a couple of years ago, the building had to be repaired and retrofitted. While the owner was at it, he had also paid to have the original facade replaced on the front of the underlying brick structure. Chris put the truck in park and killed the engine, then he looked over at Tad. Those handsome, dark eyes seemed to peer straight into his soul. Tad always made Chris feel as if he were the only person in the world. Even while they were with Nate, somehow, Tad connected with Christopher in such a deep and profound way. Yet he managed to do the same thing with Nate simultaneously. Tad's hand rubbed Chris's beard and his face. "I love you, Bear." Chris closed his eyes, and he turned his head. He gently kissed the palm of Tad's hand. With his lips still against Tad's skin, he whispered, "I know. I love you." He bit his bottom lip, then he looked up at Tad. "Does it hurt you, that I need Nate too?" That thought had bothered Christopher, and he could no longer put off knowing for sure how Tad honestly felt. Tad grinned at him. "No." He ran his hand over Chris's brown hair, almost as if he were petting his tall lover. "Nate's good for us." Tad leaned forward, and he kissed Christopher's lips. He leaned back again to look at Christopher. "And we're good for him too." Tad let his eyes roam over Chris's face. "Bear, I know you're scared sometimes. And it's okay to be." He smiled and looked in adoration at Chris, then he sighed. "I just want you to talk to me when it happens. Okay?" Tad shook his head. "I worry about Nate, you know? I know you guys talk, and that's great. But the scary stuff, your worries, and your fears, you can bring them to me. I can take it." Chris swallowed the lump in his throat. He looked at Tad, and he felt the emotions run so deep as he did. He nodded. "Okay." "Good." Tad and Christopher kissed again, and they stayed with their heads together and communed in the simple, primal way skin on skin contact allows. Then, Tad chuckled. "I just don't want to run him off." Tad leaned back, and he grinned. "The sex is too good!" Christopher laughed. "You're right about that!" He looked fondly at Tad. "Come on. Let's see if this place is gonna work for us." With smiles, the men left the truck and started up the stairs of the apartment building. ∞ Nate had already been let inside the third-floor apartment by the manager, and he turned when his men entered. "Hey!" He grinned at the pair, and he motioned over the large living room space. "Come check it out." After some quick but affectionate kisses, Chris and Tad both walked around the room. Chris was pretty easy and had few needs or wants when it came to his living spaces. He quickly approved of the living room, and the tall fellow disappeared down the hallway to the bedrooms. Tad ambled around, and his artist's eyes looked at the last of the light as it poured through the western facing windows. He stood in the sun, and he smiled as he looked out of the large pane of glass. "Kali will love this window." Nate smiled at him. "Yeah, she will." He stepped over next to Tad and looked out over the street and old town Eureka below. Tad continued to gaze toward the west, at the horizon. "Do you like it, Nate? The apartment?" The redhead nodded. "Yeah. I love it. It has a great view, it's renovated, and super nice. The bedrooms are all generous." Nate put his arm around Tad's shoulders. "Come on, I want to show you the kitchen and the bedrooms." Tad smiled, and his eyes looked dreamily out over the view. "It's great. If you and Chris like it, then it's perfect." Nate frowned. "But, it's not just about us." He pulled gently on Tad. "Come on. You'll love the kitchen." Tad finally turned toward him, but he surprised Nate when he put his arms around him. Nate stood there, holding Tad, and the dark-haired man smiled in his ear. "It will be about you guys, and just you guys." Nate frowned as Tad spoke. "If you and Chris like it, then it's where we'll be." Nate fought the gut-punch sensation in his belly and squeezed Tad. "Maybe they're wrong? Maybe it's not what they think it is, and you'll be fine. You still don't have symptoms, right?" Nate still struggled to accept that Tad's time was limited, and he couldn't imagine life without him now. "Not yet. But don't let Bear hear you say that, okay?" Tad rubbed his back. "I know you don't want to believe it - neither do I, but we can't let Chris hear those doubts. He's just starting to accept things, and how they'll be." Tad pushed back, and he looked at Nate's sad, blue eyes. "You can be weak with me. But, with Christopher, we both need to be strong. Okay?" Nate bit his lip. He had so many things he kept to himself. Things that he didn't want to saddle Tad with - his worries, and his stresses. But Tad was so insistent, so Nate agreed with a nod. Tad smiled broadly at him. "Good." He gave another quick hug to Nate, then Christopher appeared in the hallway. "Hey! Come look at the tub. It's huge!" His bearded face grinned. "I bet all three of us could get in there." Tad laughed, and he glanced at Nate. "Shall we?" He put out his arm. Nate took a deep breath, and he forced a smile. "Yeah." He linked his arm in Tad's, and the two of them met their excited boyfriend in the hallway of what would become their new apartment.
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